Across a streetscape of bodegas, pizza shops and vintage clothing stores, a tan tower juts into the sky.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is known for its culture, but at this mid-block site, it can be noticed for its height. Long nicknamed the Finger Building, the condo is now branded with its address, 144 North 8th Street. It has been reviled by local residents, who fought its bulk and later, despaired as it stood unbuilt for years.
The controversial architect Robert Scarano designed the structure, which stalled at 10 stories when the original developer, Mendel Brach, ran into financial trouble. Having broken ground before a 2005 neighborhood rezoning -- and with approval from the state's Board of Standards and Appeals--the tower is able to rise 200 feet, when most of its neighbors are limited to 50.
This has the type of views--and the height--that will never exist here again, said Steven Hurwitz, vice president of development at GFI Capital, which acquired the property after Brach surrended it to lenders.
GFI, developer of the Ace Hotel and NoMad Hotel in Manhattan and Brooklyn residences in Fort Greene and Greenpoint, had wanted to build in North Williamsburg, a hub of nightlife that has become awash with new developments.
It made a number of changes to the original plan. The final builing is 14 stories, two less than maximum air rights, but still the tallest building in the area, aside from the glassy waterfront condos along the East River, Douglaston Development's The Edge and Toll Brothers' Northside Piers. GFI had considered naming the tower The Albero, Italian for tree, but eventually reverted back to 144 North 8th Street.
Brach had planned to put mechanical systems on the roof, but GFI hired Goode Green to design an 18,000 green roof, a sort of mini-High Line, a reference to the elevated park on top of former rail tracks on Manhattan's West Side. There is also a resident garden that will allow owners to plant on a first-come basis.
It's really is an oasis, said Hurtwitz.
GFI had design firm Curated for interior design. Because the site sits midblock, a hallway connects the entrance to a checkered lobby. After ascending a few floors in the elevator, the views are immediate: a panoramic swathe of Brooklyn, the peaks and valleys of the Manhattan skyline and Queens. A top-floor penthouse, which sold for $2.49 million, has glass walls and a terrace that seem to be swallowed by the views.
Hurwitz said that 70 percent of its 41 apartments in contract after a few months of marketing by the Corcoran Group. Prices have broken $1,000 per square, a rarity in Brooklyn.
There's some parallel between 144 North 8th Street and One Madison Park, the obsidian tower a few blocks from the Flatiron Building, which has remained in limbo as creditors sort out its fate. The Brooklyn building offers a pathway to profitability for a pre-bust plan: architectural changes, a rebranding and capitalizing on the merits of height and location.
It's evident that pre-bust scandals have done little to tarnish the marketability of such properties, despite being conceived in frothier days. With the rebound of the New York luxury market, former visions may ultimately be vindicated.